Eagles-Patriots scouting report
When the Eagles have the ball: The Eagles are expected to get Sam Bradford back at quarterback after he missed the last two games because of a concussion and a separated shoulder. The coaches liked how Bradford played before the injury, and the offense needs him to pick up where he left off to help invigorate a unit that has scored fewer than 20 points in each of the last three games.
When the Eagles have the ball:
The Eagles are expected to get Sam Bradford back at quarterback after he missed the last two games because of a concussion and a separated shoulder. The coaches liked how Bradford played before the injury, and the offense needs him to pick up where he left off to help invigorate a unit that has scored fewer than 20 points in each of the last three games.
Bradford will have all of his receivers and tight ends available since Zach Ertz was cleared to return after missing the Lions game with a concussion. But he'll be challenged by a Patriots pass rush that is No. 2 in the NFL with 35 sacks. The top pass rusher is defensive end Chandler Jones, who has 101/2 sacks. He'll likely be blocked by left tackle Jason Peters, although Peters is questionable with ankle and back injuries. Peters left in the first half against the Lions and has missed time throughout the season.
The Patriots allow 253 passing yards per game, but they have limited opponents to 15 touchdowns. Their secondary is led by safety Devin McCourty, who is one of the best in the league. The Eagles were interested in McCourty during the offseason before he re-signed in New England. Their top cornerback has been Malcolm Butler, last season's Super Bowl hero. Butler is assigned to stop the opposing team's top outside receiver and has thrived. He'll likely see time against Nelson Agholor, who still has not found the end zone. The Patriots' right cornerback is Logan Ryan, from Eastern High in South Jersey, who leads the team with four interceptions. The Patriots like to use their safeties in the slot, so former Eagle Patrick Chung could face Jordan Matthews.
The Eagles need more success on the ground if they expect to pull the upset. The running game has been inconsistent, and Ryan Mathews will miss his third consecutive game with a concussion. DeMarco Murray still has only one 100-yard rushing performance this year and is averaging just 3.5 yards per carry. He has had at least 20 carries just once in the last five games.
The Patriots have held opponents to 97 rushing yards per game. Linebackers Dont'a Hightower (knee) and Jamie Collins (illness) are key players, and the Eagles could have more rushing success if those two don't play.
When the Patriots have the ball:
A scouting report on the Patriots offense does not need to go much beyond No. 12. Quarterback Tom Brady is having an MVP-caliber season: 28 touchdown passes and only four interceptions while throwing for a league-leading 3,600 yards and completing 65.2 percent of his passes. The 16-year veteran will be tested more by his team's injury report than the Eagles defense. Already without wide receiver Julian Edelman and running back Dion Lewis, the Patriots will also miss star tight end Rob Gronkowski. That should be a relief for the Eagles, although Brady finds ways to maximize other options.
Brady might pick on rookie cornerback Eric Rowe, who will make his first start in place of Nolan Carroll. The Patriots' top receivers are Brandon LaFell, who has 21 catches for 342 yards in six games, and Danny Amendola, who missed last week's game but has 49 catches. Brady is adept at finding his running backs out of the backfield. James White and Brandon Bolden will both have a role in the passing game, and the Eagles had trouble covering running backs in the passing game in recent weeks. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks needs to improve in that area. Without Gronkowski, look for the Patriots to feature 6-foot-7 tight end Scott Chandler. The Eagles like to use linebacker Kiko Alonso on tight ends.
The Patriots offense seems to change each week, and they could always feature a run-heavy attack. Their rushing offense is led by LaGarrette Blount. The former Oregon standout averages 5.2 yards per carry and has 596 rushing yards. The Eagles have allowed more than 100 rushing yards in four of the last five games.
The Patriots play with a patchwork offensive line that the Eagles must penetrate. New England has allowed 25 sacks, but the Eagles have only three sacks in the last two games. Fourth-round pick Shaq Mason will have to block Fletcher Cox, who had only half a sack in the last five games.
When the Patriots are in field goal range, few in the NFL are better than Stephen Gostkowski. The veteran kicker has made 24 of 25 attempts this season, including four from beyond 50 yards.
Big number: 6
That's the number of home losses the Patriots have had in the last six seasons, including the playoffs. During that span, they have won 48 games at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots are undefeated at home this season. Since 2001, when the Patriots won their first Super Bowl with Belichick and Brady, they are 114-21 in Foxborough. "It's a tough place to play," said Eagles backup quarterback Mark Sanchez, who won a playoff game as a visitor in Foxborough. "Fun, great atmosphere, but they're really, really good."
Zach Berman: Patriots 27, Eagles 21
Jeff McLane: Patriots 30, Eagles 19